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Brahms Op. 21 no 1 for audition
#2938004 01/24/20 12:40 PM
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Hello everyone!

So in about 9 months or so I need to have a complete audition program prepared for some conservatory auditions/presecreenings.

All the ones I'm applying to require:

"At least 3 pieces from the following style periods: Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and 20th century/Contemporary.

Must include a complete sonata by Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, or Schubert."


Since I hate learning 20th century/contemporary, I decided on the following:

Bach P&F in Fm, Book 2
Beethoven Op 10 no 1 (Easier, I know, but I love the piece and it just needs some more polishing. I should be able to play this very well.)
Romantic piece. (Undecided.)

My teacher suggested Mendelssohn Variations Seriouses (I think that's how it's spelled...), Chopin Ballade 3, or possibly the Brahms op. 1, though that's a bit long.
I also love the op. 21 no 1 variations by Brahms, but worry that it's not virtuosic enough for an audition. The main reason I'm hesitant to do the Mendelssohn op 54 variations is that I'd be doing an all minor-key program, and would like a bit more contrast.

Opinions are greatly welcome!

Re: Brahms Op. 21 no 1 for audition
D959 #2938017 01/24/20 01:13 PM
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The Mendelssohn (variations serieuses is the spelling) is quite varied. There is a lot of contrasts in that piece. So i do not think that would be an issue. I also find opus 1 to be too long. The Brahms opus 21,1 is a little easier than the others (all things relative) but it is a beautiful piece quite expressive, so if you play it well it can compensate for the slightly reduced difficulty.

You should take the piece that you think you can play the best, both technically but also in terms of expression.

Re: Brahms Op. 21 no 1 for audition
D959 #2938025 01/24/20 01:28 PM
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The Brahms, if done well, will be extremely impressive to any knowledgeable, sophisticated listener. I promise.

Of course there are several things in there that aren't givens. grin

I worked on the piece recently -- and gave it up because I found that it would take an extreme amount of work to have any chance to get it up to where it should be, and I wasn't sure I could do it even with such an extreme amount of work,

If you feel that you can, and that you're sure enough that the listeners are knowledgeable and sophisticated, go for it, without hesitation.

BTW I don't agree that it's easier than the other pieces. Sure, parts of it are, but there are parts that I would say make it truly the hardest of all the pieces mentioned. It's just that the difficulties in the Brahms are more subtle -- and it may be that only people who have worked seriously on the piece would realize them.

Let me put it this way: I doubt I would have had to give up on any of those other pieces as I did on this one.

Re: Brahms Op. 21 no 1 for audition
D959 #2938190 01/24/20 07:41 PM
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The Mendelssohn is MUCH more difficult than it initially appears

Quite frankly, I'd never heard (or heard of) the Brahms Opus 21 until reading this thread. Beautiful piece, but somewhat long and more difficult than others here have implied. I don't think it would really be all that effective as an audition piece, however.

I think the Chopin Ballade (or perhaps the 2nd or 3rd Scherzo) might be your best bet


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Re: Brahms Op. 21 no 1 for audition
Carey #2938208 01/24/20 09:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Carey
....the Brahms Opus 21....I don't think it would really be all that effective as an audition piece, however.

Definitely not to an average listener, maybe not to anyone who hasn't worked on it seriously.
Extremely effective and impressive to a sophisticated listener who has.

But, at the same time and for the same reasons, much harder to do well than meets the eye.

Re: Brahms Op. 21 no 1 for audition
D959 #2938242 01/25/20 12:04 AM
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Great responses here. Very helpful and much appreciated.

What would you guys think of the Brahms op 79 no 1 Rhapsody? Would an all minor key audition necessarily be a bad thing? This seems different enough in character to work alongside the Bach and Beethoven, but what do I know..

Re: Brahms Op. 21 no 1 for audition
D959 #2938260 01/25/20 01:37 AM
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Originally Posted by D959
What would you guys think of the Brahms op 79 no 1 Rhapsody? Would an all minor key audition necessarily be a bad thing? This seems different enough in character to work alongside the Bach and Beethoven, but what do I know..
I think the Op.79 is far too elementary for a conservatory audition.

Re: Brahms Op. 21 no 1 for audition
pianoloverus #2938263 01/25/20 01:50 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by D959
What would you guys think of the Brahms op 79 no 1 Rhapsody? Would an all minor key audition necessarily be a bad thing? This seems different enough in character to work alongside the Bach and Beethoven, but what do I know..
I think the Op.79 is far too elementary for a conservatory audition.


I thought the same since I have performed it, but it is listed as Diploma level (Associate) for RCM (Toronto), for whatever that might be worth. I think it more appropriate for an audition for a BMus program, not a conservatory program.

For my taste and judgment, I do think that a program of works all in minor keys is not a good plan.

Regards,


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Re: Brahms Op. 21 no 1 for audition
D959 #2938268 01/25/20 02:10 AM
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I don't think it matters in the least if a program is all major, all minor, or all modal. grin

(not per se)

I agree that the Brahms Rhapsody would not be an appropriate choice.

Re: Brahms Op. 21 no 1 for audition
D959 #2938366 01/25/20 11:25 AM
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How about let's talk a little about what's hard about that Brahms variations piece....

We don't need to talk about more than just a few things to show it.

-- Variation VI is a killer. I would say it is harder technically than anything in any of the other pieces -- literally harder just technically. Surely it can be argued otherwise, but what's for sure is that this variation is extremely hard and that it's at least close to anything in any of those others.

BTW, please nobody take the obvious counter of saying "not everything is hard for everybody." That's boring. ha

This variation is hard. The people for whom it isn't are (and please don't say this is just an opinion; that's boring too grin although yes, of course I haven't done a survey) .....the people for whom this isn't very hard are few, and most of those aren't likely to be applying for anything.

For anyone who decides to go and check out how hard it is, a couple of things:
-- Make sure you realize that it goes like the wind. If you play it slowly or even at just moderate speed.....well maybe you can get away with that if you're unusually highly musical, or maybe with a geriatric dispensation if you're as old as I am ha although I wasn't going to settle for that, but it's not what would need to be done if it's for an audition.
-- Make sure you don't quit before getting to the second part.
That's where it becomes so hard.
It is a huge challenge to do the left hand leaps in time and smoothly, and reliably accurately -- provided that the tempo is what it needs to be.

OK -- that's just one example, for the technical aspect.
Here's about the musical demands.

Just two examples for that:
Variations V and XI.
Goodness gracious. grin

Extremely subtle, especially the latter. The challenges are similar, we could say identical, to those in the second movement of Opus 111. Some people think that's not extremely hard either, and if we look at it superficially we might think it isn't. But that movement, and those two variations in the Brahms, are challenges of the highest level in subtlety, sensitivity, and sophistication. If we play either of those for an audition without meeting those challenges at a high level, they'll wonder why we're playing it.

I do realize that these things aren't necessarily clear without looking very closely at the piece.

Re: Brahms Op. 21 no 1 for audition
D959 #2938388 01/25/20 12:25 PM
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I do not know about the difficulty of the Brahms Op.21 but I have often listed it as a neglected masterpiece whenever that topic pops up at PW.

Re: Brahms Op. 21 no 1 for audition
D959 #2938400 01/25/20 12:51 PM
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The Brahms variations should be fine for an audition piece. It should show your interest in learning things that are not on the beaten path.


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Re: Brahms Op. 21 no 1 for audition
pianoloverus #2938509 01/25/20 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I do not know about the difficulty of the Brahms Op.21 but I have often listed it as a neglected masterpiece whenever that topic pops up at PW.


Per the following listing (which makes a lot of sense to me) both the Brahms Opus 21 No. 1 and the Opus 79 No. 1 are shown in the "Difficulty 4" category.

http://www.pianolibrary.org/difficulty/brahms/

The works in "Difficulty 4.5 and 5" are recognized by many pianists as the MOST challenging pieces Brahms composed for solo piano.

I would think that either the Opus 21 No. 1 or Opus 79 No. 1 would be acceptable for a conservatory audition - but I agree with Mark that the most challenging parts of Opus 21 far exceed the difficulty of the Rhapsody.

As for Romantic works in major keys, how about....

Chopin - Barcarolle Opus 60, Ballade No. 2 Opus 38, Valse Opus 42, Tarrantelle Opus 43, Polonaise Opus 53.


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Re: Brahms Op. 21 no 1 for audition
Carey #2938605 01/25/20 09:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Carey
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I do not know about the difficulty of the Brahms Op.21 but I have often listed it as a neglected masterpiece whenever that topic pops up at PW.


I would think that either the Opus 21 No. 1 or Opus 79 No. 1 would be acceptable for a conservatory audition - but I agree with Mark that the most challenging parts of Opus 21 far exceed the difficulty of the Rhapsody.

I agree with all of you. I think the OP would get credit for picking “original” repertoire (haha) and there is certainly enough difficulty in the variations to make it viable as an audition choice, which is not the case with Op 79 No 1. I say go for it!


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Re: Brahms Op. 21 no 1 for audition
SiFi #2938626 01/25/20 11:34 PM
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Originally Posted by SiFi
I think the OP would get credit for picking “original” repertoire (haha)....

heh heh grin

(a gold star for everybody who gets that) ha

Re: Brahms Op. 21 no 1 for audition
Mark_C #2938659 01/26/20 02:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
Originally Posted by SiFi
I think the OP would get credit for picking “original” repertoire (haha)....

heh heh grin

(a gold star for everybody who gets that) ha

Are you implying that there may be members of this forum who are not familiar with Op. 21 No. 1?

BTW, you're totally on the mark (haha) re Var. 6. I can't even begin to play it even with the facile version of the left hand part.


SRF
Re: Brahms Op. 21 no 1 for audition
SiFi #2938662 01/26/20 02:23 AM
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Originally Posted by SiFi
.....even with the facile version of the left hand part.

Simon, you made my day.
Really!

Because, it makes me a little proud to say I didn't even remember that the score has such an alternate version!

(Of course probably I should more be distressed that I don't remember stuff.) ha


As I'm now recalling, I did try that version, and for about half a second considered if I'd want to actually play that.
Only half a second though. grin

Re: Brahms Op. 21 no 1 for audition
pianoloverus #2939046 01/27/20 01:10 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by D959
What would you guys think of the Brahms op 79 no 1 Rhapsody? Would an all minor key audition necessarily be a bad thing? This seems different enough in character to work alongside the Bach and Beethoven, but what do I know..
I think the Op.79 is far too elementary for a conservatory audition.


I'm kind of surprised to hear this. The piece seems to be a fairly core solo piece of the Romantic repertoire, and is very commonly performed. Is there a particular reason why you think it's not a good choice?

Also, what would you suggest for a Romantic work? At the moment I'm leaning towards Chopin, either Ballade 2 or 3.

Re: Brahms Op. 21 no 1 for audition
D959 #2939054 01/27/20 01:57 AM
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Funny -- some folks say it's not a good choice because it's too elementary, I'm saying (basically) it's not a good choice because it's too hard.
And some think it's a fine choice.

Let me put it this way (confidently): If someone plays it for such an audition and doesn't get in, it's far more likely that it was because they felt he didn't do what the music required, than that he played it fine but it's too easy.

Re: Brahms Op. 21 no 1 for audition
D959 #2939181 01/27/20 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by D959
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by D959
What would you guys think of the Brahms op 79 no 1 Rhapsody? Would an all minor key audition necessarily be a bad thing? This seems different enough in character to work alongside the Bach and Beethoven, but what do I know..
I think the Op.79 is far too elementary for a conservatory audition.


I'm kind of surprised to hear this. The piece seems to be a fairly core solo piece of the Romantic repertoire, and is very commonly performed. Is there a particular reason why you think it's not a good choice?

Also, what would you suggest for a Romantic work? At the moment I'm leaning towards Chopin, either Ballade 2 or 3.
Being played a lot by piano students doesn't mean it's suitably advanced for an audition. I don't think it's played a lot in professional concerts because it's not as great a piece as some others by Brahms. I'm not a fan of either of the Op.79 Rhapsodies. Just my personal opinion.

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